Element 94

Element 94. Plutonium. The force that desolated humanity. | For the Sci-Fi Contest | The full version of this story will be coming after the contest results have been announced.

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5. F I V E

 

●   F I V E   

 

September 7th 2994

 

    She was either wildly naive or dangerously intelligent. Eral had never been part of a squadron before, which was, as you might think, unusual considering her relatively high ranking within the Iris. It had never occurred to her at the announcement yesterday, that she would be elected by the other Irissans. Apparently, they considered her to be a strong-minded young woman capable of venturing into the outside world for the first time in what had been a little over 900 years. It was a duty that she had accepted without any hesitations, which was what surprised her. Never before had Eral attempted something so formidable, something that would go down in history.

    Their mission would be dangerous, of course. Who knows what could be out there in the desolate land that once thrived with life, people rushing and going about their daily lives like there was no tomorrow. For them, "tomorrow" was an abrupt appointment with death.

    Yet somehow, the prospect of exploring the outside world inflamed her with hype. She was edgy. It was as if she couldn't wait to leave and see what was out there, or to picture the world before, to imagine the city brimming with people and cars and trams and bicycles going in all directions. She'd spent hours in the library, and on the computer data archives, studying what earth was like before the apocalypse. Almost all of the earth's historical records were stored inside the Iris, ever since it was built. She had only been alive for 23 years, but after most of those years spent analysing human history, she wasn't even a quarter of the way through all the Iris' archives yet. Eral was particularly fascinated with how humans before the apocalypse had lived their lives. It was alien to her. There were always constant crimes and conflicts going on. That part made her think that humanity was under the influence of the devil. But there were things that humans did so well - small acts of kindness to brighten someone's day, or believing in an entity that they named 'God' to help them through their lives. 900 years later, everything is so different. Too different.

    "Eral! Ready for tomorrow?" A voice caused Eral to snap out of her reverie. It was Jasper. With a roll of her eyes, she sat up in her bunk and was met by Jasper's classic I-know-I'm-annoying-but-I-do-it-anyway grin. Eral smirked.

    "I don't know," she said with a sigh. In truth, she couldn't wait, but she also didn't feel like getting machine gunned with questions from Jasper. He was one of those guys who wouldn't take no for an answer. Jasper was a year older than her, although he was ranked as an Irissan civilian. Eral, however, was an archadian, the band between the Irissan aristocrats, who governed the population’s survival, and the civilians. There was, however, no such thing as inequality. Everyone was looked upon impartially.

    "Oh, come on! It's time to face reality, Eral." Jasper waved his arms in the air for dramatic effect. He did that a lot. "At least we're making history together."

    Eral almost choked on her own breath. "You were elected for the squad? You?" She rolled her eyes again and halfheartedly punched him. He let out a laugh. It's good to hear laughter after such an austere announcement yesterday, Eral thought.

    It was revealed by the Irissan aristocrats that recent data collections showed that external radiation levels had now surpassed below the safe limit, and a squadron would be assembled to venture outside of the Iris for the first time in 900 years. Of course, the reactions began immediately. Some of nervousness, some of excitement. Elections began later that day. As with the elections for the aristocratic members of the Iris, usually those with exceptional knowledge were chosen, for it was considered that a man with the power of knowledge possessed the best strategies of survival. This was especially true for the selection of the squadron. Everyone, no matter which ranking they belonged to, always had the same military training. Everyone had the capability of fighting or firing weapons, should it be necessary, so martial skills were of no concern. In the Iris, knowledge is the most powerful of all.

    Eral was still perplexed as to how she managed to be elected. She had spent almost every day analysing the Iris' archives, yes, but she was still somewhat inexperienced, especially in the field. Another thing that she could not fathom was the fact that she occupied her time with the library, so she only occasionally mingled with other Irissans, yet somehow the majority of them knew her. Eral let it pass. She'd read so many history books that she was just overwhelmed by the prospect of now being in one. Even if she didn't make it back, she'd be satisfied that she at least attempted to begin the return of humanity's existence in the outside world. For the first time in her life, Eral felt as if she had a true sense of purpose.

    Jasper laid a hand on hers and breathed in, letting it out in a loud sigh. "I'm scared." He said, with regretful eyes. It wasn't often he was afraid. He was always the enthusiastic one, so animated in everything he did. Eral was the opposite; she was the buzz kill. Although, having Jasper around usually made her a bit more lively. She didn't understand how he could be so antic and still maintain seriousness in his work. He also occupied his time in the library. He was the team leader of what everyone likes to call the 'Codacs'. It was their duty to update the security on the computer systems using a whole manner of different and complex coding.

    "It's okay to be afraid, Jasper. The apocalypse destroyed almost everything. Who knows what could be out there. It will be deadly, even with the radiation and acid rain gone. We have to be ready." Eral said with realisation. Now she'd said it out loud, the mission sounded more terrifying than she'd previously thought.

    "The Iris... " Jasper said, looking up towards the domed roof and through the skylights into the warm hues of the sunset, still tarnished by ash clouds, "it'll watch over us won't it?"

    "Of course. This is our home."

    Eral meant it. The Iris was their home, and always would be. The Iris was one of a kind. Literally. It was a spherical structure constructed as an experiment in the year 2000. It was built to withstand the devastating effects of a nuclear war, and blocks all radiation and acid rain. The first survivors called the Iris their home, and even though they were consumed by fear and loathing of humanity for its own destruction.

    Eral thought differently to those first survivors. She still had faith in humanity. After all, she'd read about them for years. Eral had always come to the conclusion that it was never humanity itself that had triggered the apocalypse. It was what had given them the power to do that in the first place.

    Plutonium.

    An element with atomic number 94 in what the pre-apocalyptic humans called the 'periodic table'. The metal was more powerful as a nuclear weapon than any before. Eral only had to glance out of the window to see what it had done.

   Her theory was not believed by everyone. They had accepted it as plausible, however. It's all these manuscripts you're reading, it's twisting your mind to explore every single possibility, her father, Octavian, had once said. Eral didn't care. She wanted to believe that it was never humanity that had committed a massacre of its own people, hundreds of years ago. So far, it seemed that the remaining few thousand humans had learned from its mistakes. Life within the Iris was proof of that. Proof that nobody could deny.

  Eral lifted her eyes back to Jasper, who raised an eyebrow as she tucked her auburn hair behind her ear. "What? I'm fine." she said, fully expecting Jasper to give a sarcastic come back as usual.

     "You don't look fine." Or not.

     "Then stop looking." But Eral realised he was right. She had tucked her legs into her chest, as if she were hugging them. With the back of her hand she touched her cheek, and the warmth spread like a wildfire across her skin and through her fingers. It had dawned on her that this could be her final night in the Iris. She was hopeful that she would return, for her father's sake. But still, she couldn't fight it. She could only watch the sun drag the stars into the sky as Jasper fell asleep next to her. Tomorrow would be unpredictable. Eral was certain of that.

 

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